The ability to grade work to do, or emails to respond to, with up to five priority levels – from unimportant through to super urgent perhaps – as some applications allow you to do, are features that probably only appeal to those who are trying to look busy.
One of my favorite posts is Merlin Mann’s Mud Rooms, Red Letters, and Real Priorities. His main point is that adding an assortment of labels, tags, and priorities to your email inbox only serves to give you the illusion of getting work done. Either something is important, or it isn’t. You don’t need five levels of priorities to decide that, and spending time categorizing isn’t real work.
While the role of a CEO can be outlined with just a handful of words, the brevity of the job description somewhat belies the task that confronts incumbents of the position.
A CEO does only three things. Sets the overall vision and strategy of the company and communicates it to all stakeholders. Recruits, hires, and retains the very best talent for the company. Makes sure there is always enough cash in the bank.
I’d have never thought that the inclination to continually delay or put off completing tasks was our default modus operandi, but then again why do today what you can do tomorrow?
You may have thought, the last time you blew off work on a presentation to watch “How I Met Your Mother,” that you were just slacking. But from another angle you were actually engaging in a practice that illuminates the fluidity of human identity and the complicated relationship human beings have to time. Indeed, one essay, by the economist George Ainslie, a central figure in the study of procrastination, argues that dragging our heels is “as fundamental as the shape of time and could well be called the basic impulse.”
Running to stand still in order to get through the items on each day’s to-do list? Perhaps it is time to consider applying some minimalist concepts to the work schedule…
All this busyness has overloaded our minds. And we walk around with this nagging sense that there’s something we forgot to do. Or we feel guilty when we actually do take time to do nothing, be lazy with some friends, or watch a worm inch its way across the sidewalk.
Time management, getting things done, and how to work more efficiently, are matters that are frequently on my mind.
Each evening before I finish work for the day I draw up a list of what needs to be done the next day. I often find myself managing to cross off maybe only two-thirds of the items on my list though. Every day.
This even happens on days when I succeed in keeping procrastination at bay, and technology gives me an even break – that is the applications I use work problem-free, and the websites I visit actually load (here’s not looking at you Facebook…).
But now I read there is a name for the time-poor worker’s malady: Hofstadter’s law. Psychologists (bless them) call it “planning fallacy”, where we grossly underestimate the required time to accomplish something.
We chronically underestimate the time things take: that’s why Sydney Opera House opened 10 years later than scheduled, and why the new Wembley stadium opened last year, not in 2003, 2005 or 2006, each of which had been, at various points, the predicted completion date. It’s also why the list-makers among us get up each day and make to-do lists that by the same evening will seem laughable, even insane.
I still wonder though if some subliminal procrastination creeps into the day unnoticed…